For Lahaina – Eha loa ko’u naau

It’s been over a month since Fire took an old friend’s life, a friend I neglected to visit for more than 50 years. She was a friend that held me in my youth and taught me some wholesome ways — and some not so wholesome ways — to show me the difference in the paths that life lays out. She gave me the best Brandy Alexanders to drink when the sun was setting and the most perfect mornings, quiet and still sleepy, into which to ride my bike several miles north to the long stretch of ocean where I’d swim its shores for two miles.

After climbing out of the salty ocean, the morning still quiet and not quite awake, I’d ride back through her still quiet essence to my small house, lusciously dressed in island foliage. I’d eat sweet strawberry papaya filled with cottage cheese and two poached eggs and decide what else I’d do to spend my time with this inviting friend: Walk the streets of her old historic storefronts, visit her harbor, visit with the locals, go back to her kahakai, her kai. Maybe again course through on another bike ride. She always invited one to feel into her lazy peaceful pace.

She held my youth in sweet aloha and ohana. But Life got in the way, and I failed to visit her since I sailed from her harbor 50 years ago. Now she’s burned to the ground. Even the boats in the harbor burned to the water. Though I now lament that I never will see her again, like the best of old friends she will always reside deep in my heart.

Lahaina was and is a spiritual being that embodied the physical presence of an old Hawaiian fishing village. But with all beings who take up physical residence, it was her time to move on. I will miss her. Her Hawaiian Ohana who were born and raised in her presence and shared her days will mourn her and miss her deeply. Someone, more than likely wealthy haoles, will try to rebuild her, but I’m confident her spirit will remain aloof, hovering, never to reside on that shore again.

I’m also confident that she will visit all who knew her well. Like the returning Kōlea bird, they will sense and hear an almost silent keening as her Lahaina uhane wafts up through their hearts and memories, like a soughing breeze and, like a good friend, all who knew her will feel her arms wrapping them in her uhane and aloha.

Eha loa ko’u naau. I lost an old friend the day Lahaina burned.

The Weaver of Words


     The blue curtains are still half closed as to not disturb the cobweb that had been built the night before. She is thankful the sun had glistened off its threads in such a way that it had caught her eyes before jerking the curtain wide open to let in the morning. She moves her chair slightly so she can watch the web shiver in the sunlight as she drinks her coffee. Her kitchen, small, bright from that sunlight coming through the window, is free of clutter. It reflects her simplicity: room for only two at the table, no cute containers on the counters, only a blender for smoothies. She'd long ago put away the microwave and other contraptions of modern cooking. 
     With one finger, she moves the vagabonding strands of long brown hair to lodge behind her ear. Her face holds the quiet, reflected in a softness that is only gently etched by time that has worked creases into the corners of her eyes. Her mouth is pulled down slightly at its corners as gravity schlepps its ever-gentle pull on her aging skin. Mornings of sunshine and light, like this morning, help balance the reflections dwelling in the shadows.
     A writer, a weaver of words, a sleuth of storylines, her creations happen in the space of secluded rooms, wombs into which she descends where most life first thinks itself into existence. Far from tenebrous but necessarily holding the calm that the darkness of night embraces, her life is lived in the seclusion necessary to create, that place in which thoughts reside in quiet. Every morning, she has settled into the silence of her small house. Never any music played nor news of the world pushed into its clean energy. She fills with the silence, content, like a comfort food meal. She fills the silence with words. 
     She looks at the paper on which she's written a title, "Aweigh of Life - A Memoir and Travel Tales of Seven Years in the South Pacific," and she begins to write.

“I was never tethered tightly to my family body, nor was I brought close in for nurturing and protection. I felt I was not an essential thing to protect. As a young child, I was tied by a thin string which broke again and again. I tugged hard so they’d know my strength, and they’d see my accomplishments. “Am I good enough now?” Seeing my demands not as a need for recognition but as rebellion, they tied thicker ropes with stronger knots made of stricter rules. But they too frayed quickly, eaten away by the acid anger of an unhappy family. I drifted from home because there was nothing to hold me, and when I was far enough away, I pulled the anchor up completely and stowed it deep inside to put down only if or when I found safe harbor.

“Anchor aweigh, I touched that exhilarating freedom of deep waters. I ceased to look for safe harbor. I sought out the storms and mountains, any challenge that proved that I could survive without “them,” an ever-broadening pronoun. I changed course, changed boats – just as tides turned and winds shifted – like moods, changing hour by hour, day by day, leaving flotsam floating on receding horizons, never thinking that they would be the pieces I’d gather up one day to find my way home and the reason I left.”

     That's how it began several years before. Now remembering the genesis of that book, she ponders the story behind the story. A new cobweb hangs in her window. She herself feels suspended, twisting on woven threads, a coarse, emotionally tactile tatted fabric; holes left between tight stitches. She's reweaving something, giving it form, finding the warp and filling in the weft of a generational backstory.
     But her sacred world is interrupted by her cell phone ring, playing Ripple. She allows it to reach the beginning lyrics, "If my words did glow, with the gold of sunshine, and my tunes were played on a harp unsung....." before answering, "Hello, this is Edie."      
     She hangs up the phone and takes another sip of her coffee, gazing out the window. She'd almost forgotten that she had committed to a weekend of women who, for 30 years, have gathered together once a year at the summer's end. She is being reminded to bring a cooler of ice. Her preference is to stay here and keep writing. Each year she is nudged from her cocoon, a call to shift gears and join the Tawanda Girls for another "crazy weekend." Sometimes she commits, though this year she wishes she hadn't. 
     She fears letting loose her muse to roam elsewhere, to gather loose threads in the wind and wander afar. Will the weaver return?  Will this sacred spell be broken? Will the frivolity of the Tawanda women destroy the thaumaturgy created in this moment? Will the muse return to fill the empty pages between the bookends? 
     Time eases the sun away from her window. She resolves to have faith. Her coffee is cold, but she pours the last into her cup, adds the last of her half and half, and then she gathers up her things and walks out the door.


Do societies idealize romantic love

Do our societies idealize romantic love at the expense of other forms of love?

Responding to a prompt offered up in a workshop I’m participating in (The Dharma of Relationships, Paramis in Action), as is my nature, this question has flipped on the switch of a huge spotlight to explore what lies behind the myths we live by, most particularly “romantic love.”

My first, on-the-surface response, is that yes, they (societies) do. Then I think I would have to narrow it down to which societies do because I’m unsure whether the Leavers, as Daniel Quinn called those who live(d) in harmony with the “wild world,” do or did. It’s definitely a myth that has morphed with the separation of man from living in harmony with nature, living in that deep respect for the interconnectedness of all that exists from the tiniest cosmic particle to the humpback whale.

I view this question to be asked in a very active tense as if it is a conscious objective of “societies,” which I don’t believe it is. Has it in fact been a conscious idealization by “societies,” or, instead, has it been a very unconscious metamorphosis that began with religion, with a “God” “out there,” and that “God giving its only son to man” so that mankind can go to that better heavenly place after death, again separate from “heaven on earth.” It began with power and greed usurping the individual’s path, most particularly through dogmatic religions, I feel, wherein grasping greed has slimed its way into all aspects of one’s life with the proposed end result being that an individual’s goal is to obtain more — more wealth, more possessions, more status, more love (as if love is an object to obtain/attain).

For some reason, I reject that societies, in the active tense, idealize romantic love. Instead, as with all the delusions humankind has wrapped itself in, from the first agreements we unconsciously make with our parents from birth, with the communities we’re raised in, we unconsciously create myths and adopt these beliefs, as part of the circle of Dependent Origination. And we suffer because of it, just as we suffer from all of our clinging and grasping, whether it be dogma, possessions, love, or life itself.

Many societies did, and some still do, have arranged marriages. Romantic love did not enter into the world of accepted myths, according to Joseph Campbell, until it began to appear in stories like Iseult and Tristan. Dennis Patrick Slattery says, “Myths are living symbols. They serve each of us individually and collectively as guides to aid us in harmonizing our interior world with the surrounding landscape we inhabit. They serve us on a personal level as ordering and organizing principles whose aim is to offer our lives a sense of coherence, not perfection. Joseph Campbell believes that myths reveal the movement of psyche, indeed ‘of the whole nature of man and his destiny.'” So romantic love is a myth that has evolved but I don’t believe it is or was actively idealizing love; just laying on another veil of delusion, unconsciously shoring up delusions without serving a higher self.

Unless we were raised in a Buddhist environment, I think adopting and creating myths we live by is something we do individually from our point of separation from our mother’s body and with the induction of agreements we received from our parents and from our communities. Again, I don’t believe society itself has done anything consciously. I don’t even think that the individuals who continue to grasp for power do it consciously. It’s an individual human dilemma encapsulated in Dependent Origination, through which the Buddha’s teachings shine a light on the path out of the mythical dream. It might have begun with the instinct of all living things on this earth to continue, to procreate, allowing the loins of humankind to lead the way in that deception in order to continue. Or it might have started when mankind separated from living in a harmonic oneness with nature, moving into me/it, mine/its, mine/yours, which process, of course, always left a burning yearning in the heart that something was missing.

Some species mate for life, some don’t. In order to continue the human race, until the last century, the human myth was that marriage of a man and a woman is the only permitted form of marriage (and some are attempting to continue that myth). But marriage is an institution that came out of survival, and now, in our day and age, we do not need to marry, nor remain in partnership to survive — physically — nor should we continue to procreate as, clearly, 8 billion people is straining the threads that bind us together.

But clearly, we need love to survive, as Harry Harlow proved with his wire-monkey experiments in the ’50s, as social scientists repeatedly affirm when trying to heal the injured people rising up through our societies around the world where parents — unconscious and injured themselves and in their quest for more possessions or just more basics for survival — can’t find, don’t make, or lose the time to love their children, their fellow humans, themselves.

Because of the cause-and-effect path of my life, I’ve never quite lived within the bounds of what society projects on the cinder-block walls it’s built to surround and separate itself. Yes, I’ve stuck my toe into romantic love several times throughout my life. It always burned me. Or maybe I didn’t follow the rules or know how to do it. But whether it was my path, whether it was the deep burns suffered, or whether I instinctively knew that romantic love was not to be idealized,  I’ve chosen to explore the myths I’ve lived by. Saying society actively did something feels like it once again removes the individual from seeking the truths behind the myths we live by.

Since I’ve found the Buddhist path, I’ve peered behind the veils slip down. I’ve discovered a deeper loving kindness to be the fertile ground that sustains all and from which all springs. Loving kindness is an ever-present moment.  Romantic love is an ever-changing delusion, and at least for me, at 73, a distant past.

Earth Day Earth Way

I add my name
To those with more fame
Who point out the blame
Of those who inflame
The senses of the earth
And all those who gave birth.
And I add my name to the cries of dearth
Who others claim to have no worth.

Seldom sustained in political discussion
While ignoring earth’s pending destruction,
I watch their words flow like butter
Into the cracks and into the gutter.
But from all thoughts that I hold dear,
And discarding both fear and spear,
I embrace all hearts who are tuned to hear
The only course we must now steer.

So, turning from the glare
Of that deepening despair
We must rise up from the chair
And daily live the prayer
To wear love on our sleeve
From which force we shall cleave
From the fabric we weave
A strength no one may thieve.

Traveling on wafting fingers of smell

The wafting fingers of smell will connect me instantly to places in the past via the invisible subway of time, coursing through memories that otherwise would be lost. Or maybe they were never there. For the strangest reason, chopping an onion invariably takes me to the corner of two streets whose names I can no longer remember — Rio Grande and 13th? — near the University of Texas in Austin. I’m immediately standing in front of a small convenience store on that corner. Not inside the store, just standing outside looking at it. Why I travel to that spot when I cut an onion I have no idea, but I absolutely can verify I never cut an onion standing on that corner 55 years ago.

The smell of French perfume, which is unique compared to American scents, takes me to the New Hebrides, where we’re anchored stern-to in our sailboat in front of a colonizer’s grand home. Across the early morning still waters is a small island where women are cooking yams and the staples of the day over their cookfires. I can hear the cry of babies drifting across the still waters. I was pregnant at the time with my second child, and the smell of that perfume reminds me of the morning sickness I suffered.

The smell of marshland transports me to a childhood playing freely along the creeks of Maryland, while the smell of booze and cigarettes leaves me hiding in the darkness of night. On the rich sap smell of a pine forest, I travel to hot afternoons arriving at unnamed mountain campsites. The sweet smell of a salty ocean and creosoted wharf pilings carry me quickly to Cape Cod for the summer, while the whiff of fresh horse apples transports me on horseback to the foothills of Santa Barbara.

Why should I buy a plane ticket to travel when so many smells carry me away for free?

A fear to overcome


If there flowed a river, I would swim it
If there stood a mountain, I would climb it
If there were a meadow, I would dance in it
If there grew a flower, I would smell it
If there sang a bird, I would rejoice in it
And these things — and I — would remain the same.


If there were a man in whom all these things existed,
I fear I would need run from him….

For if I entered into the strength of his mountain
Or swam and danced and sang with his soul,
Within the flowing scent of this new quivering song,
Surely I would change — then who would I be?

On the wings of that siren’s song
I return to the mountain,
To the beauty of the meadow and flowers,
To the rapture of the bird,
I return to me.

By car, by train, by boat

Ah, to travel. And for what purpose? To experience places beyond my front yard, of course. By car, the other place might include a grocery store or the local used bookstore, or the post office; it might include the experience of visiting a friend and catching up. And, of course, there are the greater adventures by car, traveling to our great national parks, Yellowstone to Mesa Verde, and places in between, camping under the stars.

But to experience far-away places, my most favored way to travel is by sailboat. All that I need is on board: my sleeping quarters, food, water, clothing, and books to read. Once the sails are set, the sea pulls me into her arms where I’m rocked to sleep or tossed in its more exuberant moments of tempest and storms. The longer I’m at sea, the more peaceful and joyful I feel. My ego lies down, and I find myself to be little more than a piece of dust in the immensity of the universe floating on this blue globe in an endless black space. Though a sailboat can, and must arrive, in larger ports in order to clear customs – those malignant cities on the edges of land masses big or small – a sailboat can move away from those noisy, dirty places and slip into the untouched bays and coves, less touched by “civilization.”

I no longer have a sailboat, and it’s been many years since I’ve sailed. Sailing is slow, as travel should be, traveling 100 to 200 miles a day, so much different than I would travel now. To visit another country, I zoom to an airport to hop on a plane to take me to the other side of the world, flying over great expanses of land, missing all the sights to be seen had I been down on the ground. But when I arrive in that foreign land, I stay in cheap hostels, and I always opt for public transportation — the local “chicken” buses or trains, however it is the local people travel — so that I can experience the place to which I’ve traveled and not the mirror image reflected in hotels or promoted through the travel brochures back home.

What is “success”?

Humanity is the only organism that even contemplates “success.” All other organisms just go about the process of living — breathing, eating, nesting, procreating, dying — without any contemplation of succeeding or failing. For we monkey-minded individuals, we set goals, and success is overcoming our self-imposed challenges or hardships — whether mental, physical or spiritual — by maintaining a continued focus as we climb to the top of our mountains.

There are times, success may be defined by others. As a writer, success is when readers discover my book and — thoroughly enjoying it — they recommend it to others or buy it as a gift to share (Aweigh of Life under my pen name of e.d. snow). But as the author of that book, my sense of success is very personal. Since writing is a long and arduous journey, success is in having completed that journey, having gotten it published, and ultimately feeling confident that it’s well written and I accomplished what I set out to achieve.

But the definition of “success” is a spinning top. For a drug addict or alcoholic, success could be scoring the next fix or it could be finally turning the key and committing to a clean-and-sober life and establishing a supportive community. What is deemed “success” will always be relative to who is watching the movie called Life and how thoughtful the perceived goal was.

They do say there are no winners in war, but for those engaged in it, success for the aggressor is killing and destroying as much as possible until the defender is crushed and surrenders. As the defender, success is in gathering the forces of spirit and the resources and tact to crush the aggressors, driving them from their space and territory. For the UN and peacekeepers, success is in garnering and maintaining a peace treaty.

For me, success can never be achieved if the goal is wealth and riches, which I believe  fuels of all wars, because those who aspire for such will never be satisfied. They will clamor for more. Success is in finding peace within our own internal wars and damping down the weapons of anger, jealousy, greed, sloth, envy, restlessness, and, yes, doubt.

Success is witnessed in the achievements of little seven-year-old Aneeshwar Kunchala who  writes his own poetry and creates his own YouTube blogs on saving the earth and gets international recognition for it. Success is having the courage to give voice in order to change the human dialogue, to bring focus to the existential issues facing humankind, those voices being heroes like the Greta Thunbergs, Martin Luther King, Jrs., and Nelson Mandelas of the world, who took on the challenge to be spokespeople for all.  Yes, like writing a book, ultimate success will depend upon how many hear the cries and react and act to effect the change necessary for humanity’s survival.

Success is being able to touch the depth of one’s spirit and heart in the midst of the worst of adversities and from that depth gather the strength to help others.

Success  is being able to be a still pond in the midst of all challenges in life.







Is there a book that changed my life?

Pondering on the question of whether or not a book changed my life, I would be quicker to say there was one book that woke me up and ultimately steered me down a certain path. I’ve often wondered if I even had a choice, and if I’d chosen differently who would I be had this book not appeared in my life. Did it change me? It definitely steered my course towards being mindful and making changes in how I behave in life — not that I was always successful, but it got the wheel turning. And I cannot ignore how blatantly obvious the Universe was in placing this book in my path. Such an event is not to be ignored! So the wheel begins to turn with Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous as a book that possibly changed my life.

In 1969, 19 years old, I sailed from Hawai’i to San Francisco, falling in love with deepwater sailing. Upon returning to Hawai’i, I bought the Wanderer II, a 24-foot gaff-rigged cutter, with all intentions of sailing around the world by myself. Besides the sails and necessary equipment to sail, there were two books onboard. One was The Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda (a book I never got around to reading until 2010 when I moved to Costa Rica).

The second was In Search of the Miraculous, which conveys the teachings of George Gurdjieff, a Russian philosopher, mystic, and spiritual teacher. It was deep and heavy reading for my naive and unworldly mind. I remember studying that book like my life depended upon it though. There was something being taught that no one, no education, had introduced me to. And I’m happy to say, Houston, there was ignition and lift-off from the ground of sleepwalking into a glimmer of a higher consciousness. Though I would fall asleep again and again, the wheel was turning and the direction of my life seemed to have shifted.

I ended up selling the Wanderer a year later, freeing myself to crew on other boats. I made two more deliveries from Hawai’i to the Mainland before I caught a boat to the South Pacific where I sailed and lived for seven years. The ocean itself deepened my focus, lending its contemplative space to my mystic ruminations. I eventually returned to the U.S., as a parent, entering the path of family and responsibility. As those years rolled past, the spark was kept alive by books and workshops by the then current popular spiritual teachers like Gary Zukav and Deepok Chopra and others.

Of course, I’d indulge in novels that brought tears and laughter, as well understanding and compassion, but I continued reading books in pursuit of this higher consciousness, in search of that mystic enlightenment. Those readings began to lean towards Buddhism. Of course, I’d read Siddhartha in high school; but I revisited it with a deeper understanding. I read David Wright’s Why Buddhism is True, The Essence of Buddhism by Traleg Kyabgon, Jack Kornfield’s books, as well as dozens if not hundreds of others, devouring the philosophy and thought.

Then I read Peter Coyote’s memoir, The Rainman’s Cure. The wheel of life turned me a bit further down the path. Coyote’s book was pivotal in me realizing that reading about Buddhism was far different than the practice of sitting on the cushion and actually meditating. It was with that awareness instilled by Coyote’s memoir that I began, and continue, my meditation practice in the Thai Forest tradition and the teachings of Ajahn Chah.

Becoming more mindful and focused, I found that my meditation practice provided the discipline to finally sit down and write my memoir, Aweigh of Life, the experiences of those seven years sailing and living in the South Pacific 45 years previously.

The process of writing Aweigh of Life was — quite unexpectedly — an extremely cathartic experience. After all, one must be very honest with oneself when writing a memoir, and in that honesty, well-hidden “secrets” are often revealed. Though it’s a “sweeping tale” (as one reader put it) of my adventures, including the unique experience of giving birth to my first child on a remote island in Papua New Guinea, and interlaced with historical, cultural and geographical descriptions, the writing process itself brought into the forefront of my awareness what had been driving me my entire life to be aweigh of life. Recognizing myths I’ve lived by — I have found — heightens my meditation practice, my mindfulness, and the wheel keeps turning.

So I could say that Aweigh of Life is that book that changed my life because of the cathartic experience in writing it and the next level of awareness it brought to me? Or I could say Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous was that book, 50 years ago, that ignited that spark to pursue a more awake life of contemplation, meditation, and mindfulness?

Or I could say it all just is the way it is. I am the way I am. Nothing changed me.

Who knows for sure if a book or anything at all changed me?

It all just was the way it was.

It just is.